I’m pleased to have author L. A. (Laurie) Chandlar from New York here to speak about her writing and first traditional release, the first of her Art Deco mystery series, The Silver Gun, which is on blog tour with Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book.
The Silver Gun is my first traditionally published novel that debuted August 29th, 2017. This is the first in the Art Deco Mystery Series by Kensington Publishing, Corporation. I also published my own two books for different talks that I perform. One is short stories in the midst of a novel, about the backstories of the people behind beloved holiday traditions, called The Christmas Journalist. Think Mitch Albom meets Sophie Kinsella. I wrote it as a leaving piece for one of my all-time favorite talks on this topic for a group of women at the United Nations. It’s so much fun. The other is Brass in my Fight to Keep Creativity Alive series for workshops and life-coaching sessions that I do for companies and individuals who want to get a better grasp on creativity and the psychology of creativity both personally and in the workplace.
Congratulations on your first traditionally-published book. I’m currently querying agents for a new cozy mystery series and hope to be traditionally published one day myself. I also have cozies, a new mystery, and short stories published by Solstice Publishing. Your self-published non-fiction sounds very interesting as well.
Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.
The Art Deco Mystery Series is set in the late 1930s in New York City and features the firecracker mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia and his aide and protagonist of the series, Lane Sanders. It’s a fresh take on the innovation, humor, and gumption of the Thirties in spite of the Depression. The second in the series, The Gold Pawn, releases September 25th.
Wonderful! As a New Yorker myself (Long Island), I think that setting and time period make for an interesting series.
Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?
I am an avid learner and I love to experience new things. So my goals as a writer, are to keep growing and writing, and to get to several conferences where I can learn and meet readers and other writers. I have a contract for three books in the Art Deco Series, and it is my goal to lengthen that to at least five books. I am also shopping The Christmas Journalist to major publishers and I am writing a YA novel that picks up with a young woman who is introduced at the end of The Silver Gun. It would be a lot of fun to intermingle two genres where the two series weave in and out of each other.
What great ideas. I wish you luck with all of that.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
I think readers who are compelled by adventure, humor, and who enjoy different levels where they discover new things. What I mean is, I feature a different piece of art in each novel of The Art Deco Series. The piece of art comes alongside a character and helps them navigate the mystery. I think art does that in real life, and I love the levels that it offers the reader. In the first book a now-famous artist who was not famous then, is featured in a journal that Lane finds. In the second book, both Lane AND a villain come across a chilling classic novel that everyone knows but no one has read. And in the third –this is so cool—Orson Welles put together the first all-black theater cast and performed MacBeth – set in Haiti instead of Scotland and featured a haunting jungle landcape. This was Voodoo MacBeth and was wildly popular, touring the country, this mirrors another character’s journey and helps uncover the ultimate enemy in the story. I also love to show inspiring and new parts of history that aren’t told in the history books. Mayor LaGuardia was hilarious, and I have a lot of real history in my books. It’s so refreshing to see the human and very funny aspects of history. In fact, the more sensational a chapter seems in my books, it’s most likely it was actual reality. My author notes are a lot of fun to read.
I’m sure they are. I think your series will appeal to a wide range of mystery readers especially art enthusiasts and New Yorkers.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
Keep going! It’s a tough road and boy, do we all have to deal with rejection and the awful nature of comparing ourselves to others. My advice is to remember the heart of what you do. No one else can tell your story. Self-awareness will help you grow and learn, but never confuse that with self-doubt. Self-doubt always, always tears down. Dismiss it right away and just keep going. Remember your heart and your joy of why you do what you do.
I can totally relate to that. I’ve had my share of rejections. It’s not easy to keep up the momentum and fall victim to the self doubt you mention, but when readers praise you in reviews or in person, it’s a great feeling. And, like you say, the writing comes from the heart.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
There were a lot. The biggest was just finding the time and energy to write when I was having trouble just surviving. I got the idea to write a novel right when I moved to New York City. I had a new job, a new city, no friends or support, and then we decided to start a family. So sure. Why not write a novel, too? I found it impossible for a long time. But I started with getting a babysitter for just two hours a week. I’d sit my butt down in the closest Starbucks and just write. It started from there and I had so much fun! My work compounded and starting small, but consistently, grew my appetite for more. I also had hard time comparing how other mystery writers begin with an outline. Apparently, I’m horrible at that. So I just started writing scenes and that got me off the ground.
Finding time to write is an issue for most authors who usually also work full-time and have families. I fit mine in very early in the morning. I also create a bare minimum of an outline. I prefer to write as a I go scene by scene.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
I’m part of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.
I’m also a Sisters in Crime member and belong to a few other groups including International Thriller Writers, Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writers Association.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
I love watching Food Network and The Great British Bake Off, cooking, drinking wine, and going to museums and parks in New York City.
Nice interests. I love the City museums but don’t get the opportunity to visit them as often as I’d like.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
What I love the most, is creating stories that help people see something in a new light, and perhaps help them enjoy life themselves just a little bit more. I love characters who enjoy the magic of their everyday life. I also adore meeting and encouraging people, so I try to go to several conferences a year.
What I love the least is that I still find that comparing can be really hard. I can get daunted by what other authors are doing or their successes. I usually have to give myself the same pep-talk I gave above. Like every day. There will always be people who are younger, faster, more successful… but that doesn’t make one iota of difference in that only you can tell your story. When I remember that, it always makes things easier and I enjoy it all even more.
Those are good points for all authors to keep in mind.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
Cozies allow for the reader to settle into a book. I love, love, love characters whom you come to know and enjoy as “friends.” And Thrillers tend to be more about the plot, where I love a good plot with good pacing, but I adore good characters. Cozies let us really sit in that pocket.
That’s so true. Characters are the main draws for cozies. I’ve even created a character Facebook group for my Cobble Cove mystery characters where each character hosts the group on a monthly basis to share excerpts from their scenes and to interact with group members in discussions.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
Sure! This is a favorite scene that I often read when I’m at a signing. The Thirties were so much more alive than I ever learned in History class. There was so much going on with women rising to prominent positions in the work force, great humor, innovation, amazing art, and cocktails to boot. My protagonist demonstrates that spirit. She’s artful, intelligent, and funny. And she’s always got an idea to get her and her sleuthing partner, Roarke –an investigative reporter—out of a pickle. In this scene, they have gotten a lead that they hope will reveal another piece to the puzzle of the threat against the mayor and the city.
“Roarke, I think we rushed in without thinking this through,” I said in a whisper as we drew near the slimy building in the Meatpacking District, which, by the way, carried all the odors, images, and carnage that the name implied. I’d never been over here before, and I slipped my hand into Roarke’s as we slunk down a close alley toward our meeting place he’d set in advance with his informant.
The window that we had come close to was high, but Roarke would just about be able to see in if he stood on tiptoe. It was open; maybe the informant had cracked it so we could overhear what was going on inside. All I could hear at first were muffled voices. Then Roarke’s hand tightened on mine as we heard the determined, clipped steps of someone’s shoes making their way across a tile floor, closer and closer to the window we were directly under.
Roarke whispered closely, “My informant figures we’ll be quite safe, since who would bother to look out the window?”
Suddenly, we heard something shift above us. Someone was bothering. Right this second. We ducked down in the narrow alley. I huddled up to the brick wall, willing myself to be invisible like you do in a bad dream. I held my breath as someone wrenched the window further open. Then came the reassuring sound of someone’s steps walking away.
We both slowly looked up. Low voices drifted out. I could only make out every third or fourth word. Then the voices raised, and so did the hairs on my neck as I heard my name.
“What do you mean Lane knows? Knows what?” said a very angry, high-pitched male voice that I knew in an instant was Danny’s. The guy who tried to kill me.
“Well, I’m not sure, I’m just the messenger. I’m just giving you the note. Sh—” said a nasally, fearful voice that must have been the informant’s. But something or someone had cut off what he was going to say next. Was he about to say she or someone’s name that began with S-H?
Then a couple of steps sounded, and a third voice addressed Danny in a low murmur. Just then, Roarke spied something in the window, a small piece of white paper. He slowly raised his hand and took down the paper, using careful, delicate movements. He brought it down as the voice was still murmuring. He opened the paper so both of us could read it. Written on it in sloppy writing was one word: RUN.
Roarke and I locked eyes at the same moment we heard loud footsteps decidedly coming toward our window. In one fluid movement, I turned around and we ran down the alley toward the light. Puddles splashed, things skittered in front of me. I ran like hell. Before we reached the end of the alley, a gun fired.
We were rocked in our shoes for one horrifying second. We realized it came from inside the room and we weren’t hit; we kept running. We swerved around the corner to the right. There were workers all over the place, but we stood out like an ink stain on a white shirt. With me in my bright yellow dress and Roarke in his navy pinstriped suit with white shoes, neither of us was exactly blending in.
We bounded up the street, trying to stay close to other buildings. Just as we thought we might be clear, we saw them: two guys who had gangster written all over them. One was Danny. As I turned my head to look back at him, I saw him smile that awful smirk, and the sun shone off the deep shine of his black, slicked-back hair. They started chasing after us.
“Roarke, run!” I yelled.
I had an idea. I ran ahead and took a left going north toward the docks on the west side, Roarke running right after me. I never ran so fast in my life. My sides hurt, my legs burned. But when you’re literally running for your life, those are very minor inconveniences.
I heard the clack of our pursuers’ shoes on the pavement, urging me to keep going. Neither of them yelled; they just ran relentlessly on after us. Come on, come on, where are you? Ah, there! When I saw my target, I got a final burst of speed. I heard a funny grunt of a laugh as Roarke figured out my plan.
Just ahead was a bevy of at least twenty navy sailors making their way off their ship in port, heading out for some fun for the evening. I ran right toward the biggest guy, waved enthusiastically, and launched myself right into his surprised but receptive arms. I looked back at my shocked pursuers, turned to the stunned sailor, and planted a gigantic kiss right on his lips. He responded with vigor, and it had the reaction from his mates that I’d hoped: They all cheered. I could hear Roarke laughing behind me.
The sailor let me go and set me down carefully. I brushed my hair back, and I said as loudly as I could, “Ah, well. Welcome to New York!” They all cheered again, and we all walked happily toward Broadway. Roarke and I were careful to stay in the middle of the group of laughing, shoving, playful sailors.
About twenty feet away, I spotted Danny and his partner. They had steered clear of the sailors. He was not smiling now. Danny touched his hat in a sort of salute to my efforts, but then slowly raised his hand in a small gesture of a gun, shooting at me. He softly blew the imaginary smoke off his fingers; an unimaginative gesture, but frightening nonetheless. Then he readjusted his hat, did an about-face, and walked away.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
Definitely take a quick moment to read the Author Notes and the Group Discussion Questions. I reveal what is real history and what is fiction, and then in the Questions I usually have other tidbits about the story and interesting things I’ve used or pulled into the story. In other words, they aren’t typical discussion questions. Also, I have made a few YouTube walking tours that are Behind the Scenes quickie tours of The Silver Gun. They show you things like Lane’s neighborhood, Central Park then and now, and even Blackwell’s Island (now Roosevelt Island).
I’ll definitely look for those when I read the book. I’m a librarian as well as an author and order the mystery and fiction books for my library. Although a few in our system have your book, ours doesn’t, so I plan to put an order in for it. I’m sure it will appeal to our patrons.
Please list your social media links, website, blog, etc. and include some book cover graphics and author photos if possible.
For behind the scenes virtual tours of The Silver Gun:
Here is a quick link to all my social media: http://www.lachandlar.com/social
Thank you so much, Laurie. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, and best wishes with your blog tour, series, and other projects you’re planning for the future.
For those following Laurie’s blog tour, you can enter her rafflecopter for a prize here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/02887792696/?widget_template=56d5f80dbc544fb30fda66f0